In keeping with the free-er releases in their catalogue (Sky Needle, La Ligne Claire, Minitel), Bruit Direct Disques presents “25/12/2013”, a live album by Japanese group 真美鳥Ulithi Empress Yonaguni San, whom we have on authority are often referred to by their nickname Mamitori. As with some Japanese rock groups, the band name seems to be chosen for its exotic feel. “Mamitori” is an epithet which designates an especially shimmering bird; “Yonaguni” refers to a giant moth whose namesake ,“Ulithi” is the Empress of an atoll in Micronesia. In short, everything about them suggests that we are dealing with a bunch of gleeful weirdos who dived into the pot of magic potion back in their teens. Or quite simply that Japan remains a mystery for us, and vice versa.
According to vocalist/guitarist Tadasuke Iwanaga, members of Mamitori might well be scattered to the four corners of Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Nagano, Kanagawa, Saga), could all be devoted to their painting and may have chanced upon each other at art school. It is through hanging out at the same galleries and concerts in live houses that the group must have come together. Savagely DIY and autonomous, Mamitori have to this day released only a handful of copies of a privately pressed record, while lead guitarist Aritomo has put out an abundance of self-produced acid-folk records for which he carefully assembles every sleeve by hand. The album ”1 2 3 Fairy TailChimidoro Phenomenon Satan Inferno Dress ha CattlemurareteYggdrasillHaWaSasaru” was immediately noted by David Keenan who compared it to “Isn’t Anything being creepy-crawled by Idiot O’Clock or the early Rough Trade singles as curated by Jutok Kaneko and Reiko Kudo.”.
The six tracks offered here (drawn from 123) are recorded in public and reproduced accurately, silences and tuning included at the express request of the band. Guitars in turn skinned alive, twisted in counterpoint or played with a cheesegrater, the frail vocal as exhausted as it is sweet, a trumpet playing it’s dying breath, the bouncy rhythm section which offers a skeleton of rigour: psych-rock is reduced here to fluff ,a scraggy trunk of which remains only the spinal column – willy-nilly. Mamitori walks in the traces of the ancestral giants of 70s avant-rock (Hendrix , Velvets, Captain Beefheart , Henry Cow, Can , Red Krayola ), except that it is an odd post-punk mess which spits from their amps.
Accident is king with Mamitori and their psychotic free-rock loaded with open tuned guitars sometimes feels like you are listening to shreds: limping and out of phase, constantly played obliquely, their music is at once absolutely diaphanous and indecipherable like scribbles covering a licked landscape. Nothing is ever in place, everything cracks up and frays, an atonal construction that threatens to become melodious any minute.
Ultimately Mamitori hides a form of twee pop unwittingly battered by no wave, and whose every chord could be a blank bullet. You could be mistaken for thinking you were hearing My Bloody Valentine pranged by the Shaggs, the Pastels bullyraged by Mars, Pere Ubu holding paws with Swell Maps. Is a new No Tokyo emerging 35 years after No New York ? This live set in front of a ghost-like public serves as a hint of this Japanese band’s profound peculiarity, joyfully perplexing us even further by citing Alternative J-Rock supertarsl’Arc~en~Ciel as an influence. Mamitori will have you humming songs you hadn’t notice were there.